"Beer Pong" Associated with Frequent Bacterial Transmissions

"Beer pong," a game which involves throwing ping pong balls across a table in an attempt to land one in a cup half filled with beer, is associated with high risk and incidence of bacterial exposure and transmissions.

"Beer pong," a game which involves throwing ping pong balls across a table in an attempt to land one in a cup half filled with beer, is associated with high risk and incidence of bacterial exposure and transmissions.

Researchers from Clemson University in SC claimed the game, also called "Beirut," provides a myriad of opportunities for its players to be exposed to potentially harmful bacteria, as the ball comes into contact with hands and surfaces. If the game is played outside, which is common, exposure to the ground, uncooked meat, and even animal feces becomes a larger possibility, according to a press release.

To understand how frequently bacteria are transferred during the pastime, investigators analyzed ping pong balls used in uncontrolled beer pong games. By sampling these ping pong balls, they found a majority of microbial species encountered during the game were non-pathogenic, but there was a risk of infection from players who are latently infected with bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or S. pyogenes. Nevertheless, the authors stressed animal fecal matter exposure is a cause for concern.

“Results showed that the highest levels of contamination were observed in games played outside, with a mean of 5.3 log CFU/ball, while the lowest levels were observed for games played over carpeted surfaces, with a mean of 2.8 log CFU/ball,” the writers penned in an issue of the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health.

In a parallel study, the authors introduced the balls to a non-pathogenic form of Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria common in feces. In doing so, they found the transfer rate of E. coli among the players was 100%, the press release also highlighted.

“Using a non-pathogenic E. coli strain as the inoculum, the mean level of contamination was 4.9 log CFU/ball,” the investigators said in a news release. "Overall, the results for both parts of this study demonstrate that the game of beer pong is a source of bacterial transfer."